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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Army Reduction: Math Does Not Add Up

President Yeltsin recently acknowledged the existence of a new program to quickly reduce and reform the Russian army. At the beginning of his June 10 Kremlin press conference, Yeltsin announced that "Russia cannot support an army of 3 million troops." In Blagoveshchensk on June 15, he announced that the army must be reduced from 3 million to 1.5 million troops. Yeltsin's announcements led to some confusion among Russia's military leaders. His remarks seemed unfair since the number of troops in the Russian army is actually significantly less than 3 million. As of June 1, the Russian army officially numbered 2.2 million troops. However, it is currently not fully staffed, and the actual number of Russian troops is not much more than 1.6 million. The exact number of soldiers and officers in the army is still an official state secret. Neither Defense Minister Pavel Grachev nor his first deputy, General Kolesnikov, chief of the general staff, would agree to name an exact figure for publication. In addition to the army, Russia has 200,000 troops serving as border guards, 350,000 serving with the Interior Ministry, and others serving with the railroads and various other military bodies such as the president's Kremlin guard. Although the total number of Russia's armed forces is supposed to be roughly 3 million, Kolesnikov explained that the actual number is about two million, since all branches are understaffed. Yury Baturin, presidential assistant on national security, told me that Yeltsin made two misstatements on this subject recently. Baturin said the 3 million troops the president spoke of at his press conference included all of Russia's militarized formations, not just the army. But when he said in Blagovenshchensk that the army must be reduced to 1.5 million, he was speaking about the army only and about the basic proposals of his new force-reduction plan. It seems that the president was too hasty in making his announcements. His military reform program was supposed to be ready this summer but, according to Baturin, "changes in the program still have not been worked out and officials have asked the president to delay presenting the final version until the fall." Baturin also stated that "the information on the president's reduction plan came as a surprise to most military authorities." Military experts feel that force reductions must be made across the board and not just in the army. But this position is at odds with the newly announced program to combat crime. The unexpected announcement that the presidential staff had prepared a secret plan for further reductions in the army will obviously lead to tension between the president and the defense ministry. Pavel Felgenhauer is the defense and national security editor for Segodnya.